“Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus” by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy (Viking, 2012)

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Rabies.  Rabid.  The words automatically conger up images and ideas; ravenous animals, primarily dogs.  Slavering at the mouth; demented and violent.  You’re probably also thinking about Cujo, whether it is the movie or the book by Stephen King.  All these ideas are correct, in a way, but few people know the whys and hows.  Few know that when someone is suffering from rabies, they have an innate aversion to water; just seeing a glass of it will make them turn violent as they try to get away from it.  Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus is the story of the hows and whys of rabies.

Authors Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy take the reader on a combined history, sociological and science lesson.  They go way back into the past looking at where the virus likely first originated, where it first appears in the written word, and how it has been used throughout history in writing.  How the word has changed and become part of our vocabulary.  Rabid is also a look at how society has dealt with the disease through time and across the globe.  And finally, the authors give you the science behind the virus, how it infects, how it affects, and what exactly makes it work.  It is a fascinating read on a disease that many know little about.

Originally written on October 23, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

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